Hiking Lake Mead: Part 2 Hamblin Mountain

This trail was born out of looking at a map, finding a peak labeled, and consulting the most comprehensive library of information available to me.  The internet tells me that Hamblin Mountain is an ex-volcano that was sheared in half by plate tectonics, and that its other half (by the name one wonders if its not the better half) Cleopatra Mountain is now 12 miles away.  True?  Perhaps.  Interesting?  Certainly!

More interesting things about Hamblin Mountain:

  • It is unphotographable.  From the parking area you cannot see the mountain.  Perhaps it isn’t impossible to photograph, but one would probably need a boat and a map.
  • From the top one can see 4 states: Nevada, California, Utah and Arizona.

What I did know was that I could expect a little over 3.5 miles one way with over 1000′ of climb along the way.  The various websites I encountered suggested that there may be something of a path…some of the time.  Emboldened by pathless hiking the day prior this sounded like fun to me.

The trailhead is easy to locate.  Travel to mile marker 18 on Northshore Road in Lake Mead National Recreation Area and go another .2 miles.  There will be a parking area on your left.  The mile marker numbers counting down for ya instead of up?  Well then go to mile marker 19 and travel .8 miles.  Parking is on the right.

Having parked one simply heads towards the 18 side of the parking lot, and after looking both ways (seriously, this is a fast road) crosses to one of the two trails that are sort of kind of marked.  You’ll see them if you look carefully.  Don’t be discouraged if you see lots of cars at the parking lot – we did and ultimately only had one person hiking in the same direction as us.  The other parties we passed as they exited and our interactions with them were brief enough to preserve the sense of isolation.  The one gentleman we did have the privilege of hiking in with appeared to be some sort of half-human half-Panzerkampfwagen.  We hike at a fairly consistent 3 mph over a wide array of terrain, and closer to 3.5 on flat and level ground.  This man, easily into his late 60’s blew past us.  At one point we saw him break into a run.  He had mentioned something about trying to catch up to some friends who had invited him to come hiking with him.  He was playing tennis at the time so decided he’d come after he had finished and would catch up.  Umm…wow.

Later we discovered that his friends included a cute, apparently single woman.  Despite his amazing time hiking in, he didn’t appear to summit the mountain, nor did the pair of them mind strolling so slowly out that we were able to overtake him after summitting!

The instructions for the route were fairly simple, albeit a bit long winded and sometimes appeared to be out of order or plain wrong.  But really – fairly simple nevertheless.

First – find 2 cottonwood trees at the end of the wash.  Don’t know what a cottonwood tree is?  How about a wash?  Never fear!  You’ll find both fairly easily.  The wash is that big empty river looking thing you’re walking in.  The cottonwoods are the two big trees (and there are only two big trees) at the end of it.  Great, now you’ve got your bearings.  Climb over the pourover behind the cottonwoods.  Don’t know what a pourover is?  Well, see what looks like it would be a waterfall if lots of water was present?  Bingo.  Climb over that.

And now the rule of thumb* to follow is if the wash splits, head right.  Unless you see a really well defined use trail not going right.  Or perhaps going straight.  Or even turning left.

A brief digression that really does have some relation to what I’m talking about:

Leave no trace is great policy.  It makes nature feel natural and honestly no one wants to see broken beer bottles, discarded candy wrappers, or used condoms on the side of a trail – or anywhere.  But – the parks service occasionally rephrases the concept as “Leave only footprints and take only pictures.”  In this case there are times when an occasional cairn has been put up to indicate where the trail heads out of the wash.  And in other places where the path is a bit ambiguous a stretch of rocks had been lined up as guidance.  Even outside of the obviously intentional trail blazing – the repeated tread of feet upon the soft volcanic gravel had worn a very visible trail in many places.  So my point is this: leave no trace is great, but on trails like this which are essentially unmarked, the faintest trace really does make the hike more enjoyable.  Getting lost in series of washes and never finding my way to the peak would not have been the same hike.

Gradually the trail will go from a gentle grade to a steep hill.  At mile 2.9 or so the trail will be steeper than your typical staircase.  The last third of a mile or so has stretches that are so steep you can stand vertically and reach out and touch the ground in front of you.  If your cardio is sufficient to bear the load of carrying oneself uphill – the climb itself is not terribly technical.  Follow the path and all will be well.

And the views are well worth it!

WP_20150227_007 WP_20150227_008 WP_20150227_009 WP_20150227_010 WP_20150227_011 WP_20150227_012 WP_20150227_013

Total length: 7.55 miles.

Max height: 3319′

Min height: 1896′

Warning!  Etymology follows!

I think my favorite source of information, Wikipedia, sums up the origin of the phrase “rule of thumb” best.  “The exact origin of the phrase is uncertain.”

The phrase origins could possibly be using the thumb as unit of measurement, as a maximum size for the rod for which one can beat ones wife, or my personal favorite origin as espoused by home-brewing books (and regrettably not by wikipedia) as the means by which the appropriate temperature of wort be measured.

Basically – when brewing beer, one has to heat the water and grain mixture to the right temperature to convert the grain’s sugar to a type of sugar that yeast can utilize.  Too much heat at best means you’ve used more fuel than necessary for the sugar conversion.  Too little heat can mean very little fermentable sugars.  So – the rule of thumb means that the correct temperature is the temperature at which a brewer can stick their thumb  (presumably well callused) into the wort and no hotter.  Thermometers have saved the modern brewers thumbs this abuse…but beer predates modern thermometers and depending on your view of history this may have enabled modern life as we know it.

As a home brewer myself (at least when my home doesn’t move around behind my car at highway speeds) I find this to be the most enjoyable usage of the expression and as such choose to use it.  I eschew the usage of some phrases that evoke negative connotation because I don’t wish to alienate those who don’t see eye to eye on the issue with me.  However this phrase I think is unfairly maligned.

2 thoughts on “Hiking Lake Mead: Part 2 Hamblin Mountain

  1. This area wasn’t too bad. The footing was good, the path fairly easy to discern – and perhaps most importantly for this region: winter mean temperatures in the 60’s. Definitely wouldn’t want to hike this in the summer.


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